Fellow DUDE & Colon Cancer Survivor
March is National Colorectal Awareness Month, so we’re giving you the lowdown on colon cancer, plus things you can do to prevent it, and how you can support the cause this month.
We support several colon cancer groups, so it’s an area we really like to raise awareness for. Back when we started DUDE we never imagined DUDE Wipes could provide inspiration to those undergoing cancer treatment. It's extra humbling to be able to support those who are fighting colon cancer.
First off, what is the colon?
Simply put, it’s your large intestine. And your rectum is the final section of the large intestine, which ends at the anus (stop snickering).
According to the New York Times, an estimated 50,000 Americans are expected to die of colon cancer in 2018. It’s the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and second in men in the US.
Colorectal cancer is typically thought of as a disease of the elderly and middle aged, with doctors recommending screenings starting at age 50. However, if you have a family history of colon cancer, doctors recommend you start screening for it at age 40.
Why should a young DUDE care about colon cancer?
According to the New York Times, there has been a sharp increase in colorectal cancer in adults as young as 20 or 30. The American Cancer Society also reported the proportion of colon cancer diagnoses found in adults under 50 increased to 11 percent in 2013. And a recent study has found colon cancer rates have been increasing for every generation born since 1950.
Today one in seven colon cancer patients are under 50. Dr. Samantha Hendren, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and one of the study’s lead authors, said, "This study is really a wake-up call to the medical community that a relatively large number of colon cancers are occurring in people under 50.”
How does colon cancer form?
Colon cancer begins with adenomatous polyps forming in your large intestine, which are benign growths with cell mutations that can eventually turn into cancer cells. That’s why doctors typically remove any polyps they find during a colonoscopy.
We should note that people who have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis are at a higher risk for cancer of the colon. However, early detection can be a life saver.
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
There are two big side effects: blood in your poop and digestive problems.
Digestive problems can include persistent cramps, gas or lower back pain, or big changes in your pooping pattern, like consistent diarrhea, constipation, or really thin poop (the width of a pencil). We talk more about what your pooping pattern should look like and what to watch out for here.
Unexplained or unintentional weight loss or fatigue can also be symptoms.
What can a DUDE do to lower his risk of colon cancer?
If you’re living a relatively healthy lifestyle, there’s not much you need to do in terms of cancer prevention. However, you should definitely identify your risk factors early on. These may include:
- A family history of colon cancer
- Age 40 or older
- Inflammatory syndromes like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis that increase colon cancer risk
To reduce your risk, doctor DUDES recommend maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, and avoiding excessive drinking. Oh, and if you’re smoking (or god forbid, vaping), quit.
Doctors also recommend eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and fiber, and avoiding eating a ton of red, grilled, or processed meats.
If you're over the age of 40, you should definitely consider a colorectal cancer screening. There are several varieties of screening tests, so just ask your primary health care doctor what's best for you.
What can a DUDE do to help?
Odds are you have people in your life over the age of 50 that you don’t want to die from colon cancer (ahem, your parents). Be a DUDE and ask them if they’ve gotten a screening lately—it doesn’t have to be awkward.
Next time you’re at a game or on the golf course with your old man, tell him you just heard someone joking about getting a colonoscopy and ask if it’s really that uncomfortable. Doctors say having a colonoscopy can reduce the number of colon cancer-related deaths by 60 percent.
If you are looking to contribute to a colorectal cancer non-profit, Andy’s Warrior’s donations go straight to helping the family of an awesome fellow named Andy who was a member of DUDE nation.